Webb, Kapler detail decision to let ace face Phillies in ninth


PHILADELPHIA -- For two years as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Gabe Kapler had every bullpen decision scrutinized, so it surely felt familiar as he looked up in the top of the ninth inning on Monday and tried to figure out what move to make. 

The Giants had taken a one-run lead on Evan Longoria's homer and Kapler had two options, both seemingly good ones, but both with some risk. 

Logan Webb had retired 13 straight on one of his sharpest days of the year and looked like the pitcher who took games by the throat last season. He was at just 98 pitches through eight, and behind him was a bullpen with the worst ERA in the Majors in May. 

But the man warming up at the time was the one who has been the most effective of that bunch. Left-hander Jarlin Garcia hasn't allowed a run this season, and with lefties Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper due up in the ninth, Garcia made sense, too. 

Kapler has a reputation outside of the building for managing by the numbers, but his biggest strength in the dugout might be his desire to communicate at all times. On Monday, his conversation with Webb made for an easy decision. 

"Ultimately, Webby really wanted the ball. That's the reason we made that decision," Kapler said. "When our starting pitchers really want the ball, they're cruising like he was -- he seemingly had his best stuff in the sixth inning, seventh inning, eighth inning -- it felt like the right play to give him that opportunity."

The move would backfire, at least temporarily. Webb's second pitch of the ninth was hit over the center field wall, but Curt Casali won the game an inning later. Because the Giants walked away with a 5-4 victory, they were more easily able to break down one of the toughest decisions of the year for Kapler. And they were able to appreciate a young ace who always wants the ball in his right hand with the game on the line. 

"He told me I was out of the game. I told him, no," Webb said. "I said I want the ninth. I think everyone was kind of coming up to me and saying 'Let's go.' Unfortunately I couldn't get it done."

Webb threw an 0-1 slider that didn't catch much of the plate, but Schwarber is one of the best power hitters in the game, and he redirected it just out of the reach of leaping center fielder Stuart Fairchild. Afterward, Kapler did not sound like someone who had any regrets. 

"When we are seeing with our eyes that Webby looks really good, Webby is asking for the baseball, his teammates want him to have the baseball, and we feel like he's a good option to get the next three hitters out, we're going to give him that opportunity," Kapler said. 

That meant a lot to Webb, who appreciated the trust his manager showed and was happy he got the chance in the ninth. 

"I bet you in 2020 he wasn't letting me do that," Webb said, smiling. 

The right-hander was an unknown commodity back then, but last season he burst onto the scene and became one of the National League's best pitchers. This year has been a mixed bag, with Webb getting results even as he didn't feel his best. On Monday, he had it all working. 

The Phillies struck out 10 times in the first eight innings, tying a career-high for Webb, who got seven of them on his changeup. They had just four hits, although three of them left the yard as Webb gave up more than two homers for the first time in his career.

The third one stung, but Casali made sure it didn't lead to a loss. Later, he said the decision to stick with Webb was the right one. 

"He should 100 percent get that opportunity," Casali said. "I think it's more of earning the right to do that and potentially saving some arms in the bullpen. I think that just shows what type of guy he is. He wants the ball in that situation as everybody saw in the playoffs last year. 

"I think this is about the time when he started to turn things around last year, too, so hopefully this is a sign of better things to come."

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Webb did take off last May, and on Monday he looked like the pitcher who carried the Giants in the second half last season and then mowed down the Los Angeles Dodgers twice in the postseason. That run made Webb the staff's ace and got him an Opening Day start, but there are still items to check off the to-do list. 

Webb has worked hard to be more efficient and get deeper into games, and Monday's win was the second time in his career he recorded 24 outs. It was his first time pitching into the ninth, another step, even if it was short-lived. It didn't work out, but Webb should soon get other opportunities to fight for the ninth inning.

"It would be cool to get a complete game, but it was more that it felt like my game," Webb said. "I had thrown the first eighth, we were up and I wanted to win. You guys know me, there's nothing I enjoy more other than that. I wanted it. It sucks I couldn't follow through."

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